Lancashire 109 and 194 for 6 (Buttler 59) need a further 129 to beat Yorkshire 192 and 239 (Bairstow 82, Brook 55, Onions 3-44)
When Kane Williamson was caught behind by Dane Vilas off Graham Onions half an hour into the second day of this fast-forward Roses match 22 wickets had fallen in less than four sessions and the game was in the hazard. Fifteen of those wickets belonged to Test cricketers, with Williamson, Adam Lyth and Joe Root having twice signed their names in the register of fallibility. But by the time Jonny Bairstow became the 16th Test batsman to depart, 15 minutes into a sultry afternoon, he had played the innings - and Lancashire had dropped the catch - which will surely decide this game in Yorkshire's favour.
Bairstow's 82 runs had been scored off 67 balls and they had seen his side progress from 21 for 3 to 160 for 5. Steve Patterson then swept and drove his way to an unbeaten 45 to leave Lancashire needing 323 to win. And even the fact that this would be by far the highest total of the game does not give an accurate reflection of the severity of the home side's task on a pitch which has offered the seamers movement and bounce. For Lancashire began their innings knowing their captain, Liam Livingstone, will almost certainly be prevented from batting by the broken thumb he sustained on the first day.
It was therefore no particular shock that the Red Rose struggled. By the close they were 194 for 6 and even the solace of fond hope had been removed from their supporters seven balls before the close when Jos Buttler attempted to sweep Root but only gave a catch to Williamson at leg slip. That ended a colossal 48-over post tea session, one filled with modest partnerships and false summits. The most beguiling was the enterprising sixth-wicket stand of 80 between Buttler and Tom Bailey. Now that hope is all but gone and Yorkshire's bowlers have a clear sight of a deserved victory in one of their most important fixtures.
Lancashire fought hard. Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies put on 54 before Davies was leg before to Tim Bresnan and further stands toyed with supporters' dreams. Jennings was leg before on the front foot to Ben Coad for 30 and Vilas gave the Warwickshire loanee Josh Poysden his first wicket for Yorkshire when he, too, was hit on the front leg in the next over.
Perhaps the most encouraging innings was played by Haseeeb Hameed, whose 31 included clear signs of the player he was when he made a hundred in each innings of this fixture two years ago. But Hameed was caught behind by Bairstow off a ball from Patterson which lifted malevolently and from that moment it seemed a question of whether this match would end inside two days. Buttler and Bailey ensured that it would not but as we entered the third hour of the evening session, the significance of Bairstow's 82 became even clearer.
As usual, Bairstow died as he had prospered: by taking the battle to the bowlers. Only balls of the high merit were defended; only deliveries of no possible use were ignored. Onions' full-length ball outside the off stump just after lunch did not fall into either of these categories and Bairstow slashed it with his customary savagery to backward point where Buttler took an easy catch at about chin height. However, by then his 133-run stand with Harry Brook had done much to give Yorkshire a match-winning lead.
One was left to pity Matt Parkinson, who had dropped a straightforward chance off Bairstow when the batsman had made only 22 and Yorkshire were 57 for 3. After Parkinson had fumbled the opportunity Gateshead-born Onions sank to his haunches and pondered the probable significance of the error. Those diehards who believe you need to hail from one of the participating counties to appreciate the significance of the Roses match might have adjusted their opinions had they seen him